Yeah, I had Covid-19. I’m fine now. I’ll say a few words about how it went for me, but my reason for mentioning this is mostly to urge you to consider donating convalescent plasma (see blog article).
How did I get Covid-19? I don’t know, of course. I was as careful as anybody, with social distancing, mask wearing, working from home. More careful than most. But somehow I caught it from somebody.
The list of symptoms for Covid-19 is profoundly unhelpful, as most people know. A headache? A cough? A fever? A runny nose? Shortness of breath? Nausea? Vomiting? For goodness sake if two years ago you had had a headache, would this prompt you to wonder if maybe you have contracted some potentially fatal disease? Of course not. Pick almost anything on the symptom list for Covid-19 and if it had arisen two years ago you would likely have attributed it to flu, or a mild bronchitis, or a common cold. Maybe strep throat. How the heck do you know? The answer these days is, you go and get a swab up your nose and wait a day or two and the swab gets sent by overnight courier to a place with a PCR machine, and they run the machine with a Covid-19 reagent pack in it, and you receive a test result. And if it says “positive”, well, more likely than not this means you have contracted Covid-19.
For me this positive test result was in the beginning of December. But it was not the first time I had had a swab up my nose. I had done swab-up-my-nose tests several times before this, and they had been negative. Indeed the particular swab-up-my-nose test that came up positive was a test that I had taken not because of any symptoms or anything, but just on general principles, just like the several previous swab-up-my-nose tests.
The other important kind of test that a person can get, in addition to the swab-up-your nose test, is the antibody test. I had done several antibody tests before this. I took the antibody tests because I wondered, as most anybody wondered, what if that headache that I had for a few hours on some day in February of 2020, the headache that went away after I took an aspirin, what if that was Covid-19? I wondered, as most anybody has wondered, what if I have been one of those “asymptomatic” victims of Covid-19 that we all keep reading about? Like all of us, I looked at that list of symptoms that might mean you have Covid-19, and I rolled my eyes. Anything could mean Covid-19!
Well there are one or two symptoms that really catch one’s eye. Anosmia, for example, which is a medical condition the name of which comes from the same place as the name for the chemical element “osmium” (blog article). If somebody loses their sense of smell, that is sufficiently out of the ordinary that it catches one’s attention. Shortness of breath. These days that is the scary thing to have happen. Flunking the blood oxygen number on a pulse-ox, that is scary. But I never had any of those things happen.
Anyway, the particular swab-up-my-nose test that happened to come out “positive” was a test that I had taken not because of any symptom but simply because it had been a few weeks since my previous swab-up-my-nose test and so I figured why not get tested again? The slight fever and cough that turned out to be my “Corona Light” began during the two days between the day that I had the swab up my nose and the day that I received an email from the testing center telling me I was “positive”.
Yes, I was one of the lucky ones. My course of infection is what some doctors call “Corona Light”. What you do when this happens to you is, you go and read the CDC web site to see what the latest guidance is about isolating yourself. And what it says is that you can return to normal activity (assuming your symptoms keep improving and assuming you have a 24-hour period of no fever at a time when you were not taking any fever-reducing medicine) after ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms. Or, if you are asymptomatic, you can return to normal activity ten days after you took the swab-up-your-nose test that yielded the positive result. So I marked my calendar to keep track of when my Ten Days would run out.
Within a few minutes of when I received my positive test result, I got in touch with the very small handful of people that I could imagine might possibly need to hear about it. They all got tested and nobody tested positive. Whew!
By the way, forget about any organized contact tracing. It took ten days for any state or local government health agency to get around to contacting me about this positive test result. The only contact tracing that happened was the contact tracing that I personally carried out during those few minutes after I received my positive test result.
Oh and then there is the “exposure” app that people have been encouraged to install on their smart phones. Let’s talk about that.
Months earlier I had installed the official State of Colorado “exposure” app on my smart phone. For months I had been running that app, giving it access to my location, giving it access to Bluetooth, doing everything right. As you may know, the way this app works (supposedly) is that if you test positive for Covid-19, you can get a Secret Code Number from your local government health agency and you plug it into your app. And then in an automatic way, other people who were also running the “exposure” app and who had been nearby to you during the time you were infectious will be notified. It does not tell them who they were exposed to that triggered the notification. But at least then the person who got notified will know that they were exposed and can think about what, if anything, to do about it. Maybe self-isolate.
Anyway, when I got my positive result from the swab-up-my-nose test, I phoned up the relevant local health agency to see about getting my Secret Code Number. The people who answered that call and who transferred me from one department to the next all baffled me in their actions and in their inactions. Not one of them bothered to ask, for example, “can we put you in touch with our contact tracing office?” Not one of them bothered to ask, for example, “have you already been in touch with our contact tracing office?” It was promised that I would receive my Secret Code Number Real Soon Now. Several days passed and no Secret Code Number arrived. I contacted the health agency again, and eventually a Secret Code Number arrived by text message. I immediately keyed the Secret Code Number into my “exposure” app, and the error message was “your Secret Code Number has expired”. I got in touch with the health agency again, and still no Secret Code Number that actually worked. To this day I have not successfully triggered my “exposure” app to send notifications to others.
As I say, over the past many months I had done several swab-up-my-nose tests as well as several antibody tests, all on general principles (not prompted by any particular symptom or event). And then this positive result happened.
After the Ten Days of the CDC guidelines had come and gone, I got another swab-up-my-nose test and another antibody test. The former came up negative, the latter came up positive. You can see a redacted copy of the two test results here.
There are several questions that come to mind once a person has had such test results. One question is, does this mean that the person now gets a free pass on mask-wearing or social distancing? And of course now in January of 2021 the answer is no, the person does not get a free pass on this. But in my view the reason that the person does not get a free pass has nothing to do with those vanishingly rare cases that we read about in the news where supposedly somebody has had Covid-19 twice. I think it is extremely likely that I am now immune to Covid-19 and that the immunity will last at least three months. I think that it is likely no riskier for someone to be around me for a few minutes than for them to go to a grocery store or pump gas into their car or open an Amazon package that arrived a few minutes ago. Indeed I think probably being around me for a few minutes is safer than doing any of these things. But I do not think that that I am now entitled to a free pass on mask-wearing and social distancing. Of course not! It seems to me that in January of 2021, no matter who you are, you ought to be wearing a mask and ought to be social distancing. It shows solidarity with the common goals. It is hard enough getting some people to wear a mask or to socially distance, and hopefully when others set an example this might help in prompting some to join in the protective measures. This sort of thing (not a worry about getting infected or infecting somebody else, which I consider to be unlikely) is exactly what prompts me to continue with my mask-wearing and social distancing.
In recent days I have reflected on all of this, and I realize there is one thing that I might think of in a different way than I did before I contracted Covid-19. That is going on airplane flights. Most folks are, quite understandably, scared nearly to death these days when they imagine going somewhere on an airplane. Even if you are not scared about the airplane flight itself, it is reasonable to be scared about all of the other exposure opportunities that arise when you are passing though the airport, going through security lines, sitting around at the departure gate, riding in the Lyft car to go to or from the airport. But now that I am pretty likely to be immune to Covid-19 for at least three months, I have realized I probably don’t need to worry hardly at all about airplane travel. (But I have even now not gone anywhere on an airplane. Not since December of 2019.)
Anyway, I was one of the lucky ones. I had “Corona Light”. No anosmia, not then, not now. No loss of sense of taste, not then, not now. No shortness of breath. No flunking of the blood oxygen level on my pulse-ox. No lasting symptom of any kind. As we all know, plenty of others have not been so lucky. And when the first day came that my local blood bank was willing to let me stop by to donate convalescent plasma, that was the day that I went there and donated convalescent plasma (blog article). I’ll go back and donate more convalescent plasma in future visits as the local blood bank’s guidelines permit.
Returning to what happened when I got my positive result from the swab-up-my-nose test. Yes, I then counted out my Ten Days for self-isolation pursuant to the CDC guidelines. During those Ten Days I did not need to change much about my daily routine because I was already working from home and I was already minimizing outside contacts. I had gotten a pulse-ox meter some months earlier, and one of those fancy thermometers that works by swiping your forehead. During my Ten Days I checked my blood oxygen level and my temperature frequently. Fortunately I never had any scary symptoms like shortness of breath or a low blood oxygen level. And fortunately I soon got to where there was no fever and no need to take any antipyretic medicine.
When the Ten Days ran out, I returned to normal routines, which for me were not much different from the isolation routine of the Ten Days. A day or two later I was parked at a local shopping mall for a curbside pickup of some take-out food. And while I was parked in my car outside the shopping mall, I saw what we all see from time to time, whole extended families walking out from the mall with no masks on and no social distancing going on. It gets discouraging sometimes.
Anyway yes I am fine now. I was one of the lucky ones. For people in my age group, I have read that about 85% of those who get infected end up being lucky the way I was lucky.
But my main points for you, the dear reader of my blog, are not so much my own situation. The main points are, if you have had Covid-19, please consider donating convalescent plasma, and please consider that you may have had Covid-19 and just not know that it happened. In which case get the antibody test and if it is positive, please consider donating convalescent plasma. (See blog article.)